In this genuine moving film we follow new mother Erika (Alicia Vikander), who also appeared in A Royal Affair (2012), as she goes through a crisis due to giving birth to a brain damaged child who may never be normal. Unable to accept this, she rejects the child, unwilling to see or hold it while plunging into a deep depression.

The second feature film from Swedish writer & director Lisa Langseth, Hotel (2013) is a brave thought provoking work that probes issues of identity and happiness while coping with the stresses and responsibilities of life.

The tone of the film starts out very dark and intense as Erika deals with serious issues of postpartum depression. I thought I was in for one of those painful films about suffering, but to my relief quite the contrary is true. The movie unexpectedly changes its tone delightfully while still dealing with taboo issues it brings to light. 

Traumatized and unable to function normally, she decides to try group therapy sessions for people with varying disorders. While there, she meets other patients who each decide that they want to escape their lives by exploring other parts of themselves they’ve ignored for too long as a way of coping.

Erica notices the people in the group all have a child like quality about them, and also have trouble dealing with expectations in the adult world. By retreating into their inner child for guidance and reassurance, some comic and surprising situations emerge that make the experience of watching this film a touching revelation.

Soon the group decides that by staying at a hotel they can somehow reinvent themselves in their new surroundings and awaken as different people while helping each other continue with the therapy.

For some reason people sometimes become more open to new ideas and introspective when they are away from their everyday existence and travel to new unknown places. When they are in a place where no one knows them, they are free to explore new identities and be whoever they want to be.

In many ways this film reminded me of Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2003), as the characters in both films are dealing with personal issues of identity and the stress of coping with life while staying at hotels. Both films are also directed by young female directors with strong female lead performers and draw on their own experiences for their stories. You could say that Lisa Langseth is the Sofia Coppola of Sweden.

After having spent a good deal of time together on their retreat, the characters form strong intimate bonds, during which each member gets to act out their sometimes bizarre fantasies with the support of the group. But eventually the real world must be faced and hopefully they will have gained new insights to cope with it.

It’s an honest and inspirational film about healing and acceptance. And how by indulging our fantasies and delving into our past, we can sometimes find solutions to real problems and achieve some happiness.

This powerful film, playing at the TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival), is well worth seeing and like The Story of the Weeping Camel (2003) and Lost in Translation (2003), will leave you with a warm sense of wellbeing and reassurance.


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